EAST PROVIDENCE — The first part of what is likely to be a testing equation to solve in the city’s middle schools was passed by a slim margin as the East Providence School Committee during a special session called for Monday evening, April 14, voted to accept the redistricting plan presented by Superintendent Kim Mercer and her team.
Committee chairman and At-Large member Joel Monteiro along with Ward 1 rep Elizabeth Clupny and Ward 3′s Richard Pimental cast affirmative votes while Ward 2′s Tony Ferreira and Ward 4′s Tim Conley voted against the proposal, which at its core shifts a substantial amount of students away from Riverside Middle School and back to Martin where they belong as well as attempts to eliminate the need for split academic teams.
The plan was passed with one significant caveat, calling specifically for split teams to end by the conclusion of the 2015-16 term.
“It doesn’t end here,” Mr. Monteiro said of the plan. “We’ve made a commitment to the teachers. We’ve done the redistricting part. Now once we have the enrollment numbers and schedule settled we’ll meet to address any staffing issues that may occur. We’re open to having the discussion and we’ll attempt to come to an agreement to staff both schools properly.”
Teachers and administrators from Riverside and Martin spoke on the subject money Monday night, a key concern for each having enough instructors in place to meet the academic requirements of the students they currently have and may have in the future.
Under the superintendent’s proposal, split teams would be gradually eliminated over the next two years as students from Kent Heights and Hennessey elementary schools, who geographically should be attending Martin but in the past were sent to Riverside, are slowly returned to their rightful building. The plan calls for no reductions in staff, but some could be shifted to Martin. Split teams will remain at Riverside for at least the upcoming 14-15 term and likely through 15-16.
Mr. Conley’s main opposition came with the latter. He asked for a guarantee split teams would be eliminated. Ms. Clupny added the stipulation as an addendum to her motion in support of moving forward and Mrs. Mercer said if instructed to do so she would abide by it, but neither was enough to sway Mr. Conley. Mr. Ferreira’s opposition, which he expressed at previous meetings on the topic, was financial. He is of the opinion the school department should request more money of the City Council to hire needed staff.
Monday, Mr. Monteiro countered Mr. Ferreira’s point by saying only after the redistricting plan is place can the school department and the school committee make a fiscally prudent and educational sound determination to bring on more personnel. If there is, it is incumbent upon elected officials to back the request of administrators.
“This is where we in this city typically fall short, in the follow-up,” Mr. Monteiro said in a follow-up interview after the meeting. “Hopefully everyone does their part, so that anything we do is truly beneficial to the kids. It’s up to us as a committee, the administrators and the teachers to work together to support the kids academically so they’re prepared to enter high school and can excel once they get there.”
Correction: This story has been updated to include Hennessey students returning to Martin. Silver Spring students will continue to attend Riverside.